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Major League Soccer Week in review: Round 31

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Less than a month remains in the regular season, and the playoff races remain tight as rush hour traffic on the 405. Here’s what you need to know about Round 31, which finished with an usually busy Sunday foursome of matches.

The big results

So many, really, considering playoff races in each conference that simply refuse to yield all that fascinating congestion.

But the big-big result was surely Portland’s 1-0 win over the two-time defending champion LA Galaxy helps establish Caleb Porter’s team as a real contender. The Timbers are learning now to grind out results, with two 1-0 wins at home over Western foes lately.

Tim Cahill’s second half equalizer gave the Red Bulls a useful 1-1 draw in Seattle, where the Sounders fumbled away numerous chances to put away a side missing its its top attacker (Thierry Henry) and top defender (Jamison Olave). Seattle retains the inside track on Supporters Shield (based on the number of games remaining), but it was a result the Red Bulls can take pride in.

Columbus’ surprising 4-2 win in Dallas, the Crew’s second consecutive road win, was massive in the playoff jostle. The Crew looked so close to dead a few weeks ago, but a string of impressive results has kept interim coach Brian Bliss and his troops among the post-season hopefuls. Oh, and it was also was probably a knockout punch for FC Dallas, now five points out of the race.

The “controversial” decision – that wasn’t a bit controversial

LA Galaxy players and coaches, reinforcing that sense of entitlement that has become so familiar through the Bruce Arena years in Southern California, were absolutely apoplectic about a late Robbie Keane goal that was waved off, judged offside, in Portland. And it was a swell strike, a crisp near-post header off Landon Donovan’s precision free kick service.

But replays demonstrated that Keane was offside, just as the referee’s assistant correctly ruled.

We get on the men in the middle a lot on this site, so it’s only fair to point out when they get a very close, and quite important decision absolutely correct. Job well done, guys. Here’s that one:

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The most surprising result

Philadelphia was perhaps one more big punch from being knocked plum out of this fight, having fallen from second all the way to seventh. So going into Sporting Kansas City and coming away with a 1-0 win (over a team still thinking “Supporters Shield”) was easily the big upset of Round 31.

The most impressive result

It’s not like Real Salt Lake had much of a choice, surely needing to trust the reserves Saturday night in Vancouver. With the U.S. Open Cup final coming up Tuesday at Rio Tinto Stadium, RSL manager Jason Kreis filled his lineup at BC Place with young talent and backups – and what a night it was for his club when the reserves came through with a 1-0 win.

So the starters are rested for Tuesday’s huge match, the team remained up near the top of the West and Vancouver … well, Martin Rennie’s team is left to rue the squandered opportunity.

The top tactical change

A goal down, Houston got aggressive on the road, subtracting a defender in favor of an extra attacker in a 3-5-2 look. It paid off quickly as Will Bruin found goal for the equalizer in a 1-1 draw at New England. By splitting the points, not only did Houston keep the inside track on a playoff spot (the Dynamo schedule ahead is favorable compared to other Eastern Conference playoff chasers), but Dominic Kinnear’s team simultaneously prevented one of its pursuers from picking up two additional points.

Oh, the Dynamo has done something quite similar before, and somewhat famously so.

The Golden Boot chase

source:  Saturday’s match at Toyota Park outside Chicago didn’t just have playoff implications (like so many of Week 31 contests did), it also featured the league’s top two scorers. Montreal’s Marco Di Vaio scored once, but top pursuer Mike Magee from Chicago slotted home a pair. So Magee cut the gap to one. The update list of MLS top scorers is on the right.

Caleb Porters great choice

Ryan Johnson has been the Portland Timbers first-choice striker for most of the season. So the decision by manager Caleb Porter to give young Argentine Maximiliano Urruti the start in such a meaningful match Sunday afternoon at rainy, wind-swept Jeld-Wen Field was a bit of a gamble. Urruti, 22, made his manager look good, scoring the game’s only goal in the 1-0 result mentioned above.

The weekend’s huge boo-boo

Montreal’s attackers eventually bailed out their goalkeeper, but it looked for a while like Troy Perkins embarrassing mistake in the back was going to be the difference in an important Eastern Conference clash.

Perkins, Montreal’s veteran goalkeeper, tried to get a little cute and evade Magee inside his own penalty area. Big. Mistake.

Yes, Magee fouled the Impact goalkeeper, but that hardly excuses such a blunder, a “howler” in the vernacular. Montreal’s subsequent equalizer made the final 2-2 at Toyota Park. Here’s the play:

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John Terry still hopes to remain at Chelsea beyond this season

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John Terry is a Chelsea legend.

It is the only team he’s every played for and even at the age of 35 the legendary captain of the Blues looks better than ever.

[ MORE: Wenger reveals bank talks ]

That’s why when he announced in January that the club wasn’t going to offer him a new deal and he’d likely be on his way this summer, fans of Chelsea reacted angrily and jumped to the support of Terry. He’s won four Premier League titles with Chelsea, a UEFA Champions League trophy, five FA Cup and three League Cups.

He is the most successful player in club history and despite his off-the-field issues, he is one of the greatest defenders England has ever produced.

Speaking to Soccer AM on Sky Sports in the UK, Terry revealed that he still believes he has a few years left in the tank and that he hopes it’s with Chelsea.

“I’ve got a couple of years left. Definitely I intend to keep playing, hopefully that’s at Chelsea, but if not it will be somewhere else,” Terry said. “I am definitely feeling good physically and I intend to play as long as I can. As a professional footballer you’re a long time retired, so I think not only for myself but for all of us we should get the most out of it and enjoy it while it’s there.”

With talk of a move to China, MLS or elsewhere in Europe, it seems like Terry still has his heart set on remaining on Chelsea.

The fact that he’s toned down his rhetoric in this interview suggests perhaps some headway has been made behind-the-scenes as Antonio Conte will arrive as Chelsea’s new manager in July following the 2016 European Championships where he coaches Italy.

Should Conte push for Terry to get a new one-year deal at Stamford Bridge?

Right now, Terry is still the best central defender Chelsea has. Despite his age and many believing it may be good for both parties to move on and for Conte to not have to worry about Terry’s huge influence in the dressing room, surely the Blues can’t just let a top-class center back walk free this summer?

Luke Shaw aiming to make Manchester United return this season

SWANSEA, WALES - AUGUST 30: Luke Shaw of Manchester United warms up with Bastian Schweinsteiger (R) prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Manchester United at Liberty Stadium on August 30, 2015 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Luke Shaw has been out-of-action for a half-year, dating back to a horrible injury in Manchester United’s UEFA Champions League defeat at PSV Eindhoven in September.

[ MORE: LVG says Leicester will have to earn title ]

Shaw, 20, is hoping that spell on the club sidelines will end before the end of this Premier League season, as the $45 million buy from Southampton continues to progress toward match fitness.

From ManUtd.com:

“I am back outside now, still with the physio but, day by day, I am getting better and fitter. I am just going to keep pushing now until the end of the season and see what happens. At the moment, my leg feels really great every time I go outside. There was a bit of aching at the start but now they are all gone. It is just back to hard work now and hopefully I will see the fans before the end of the season.”

It’s a good goal for the youngster, but there’s obviously zero need to rush things. With the FA Cup surely a tempting proposition as well, Shaw will also need to be reintroduced to playing in matches. Would Louis Van Gaal want to risk that during some pivotal encounters in the race for a Top Four place?

Red Bulls acquired defender Aurelien Collin from Orlando City

ORLANDO, FL - JULY 15:  Aurelien Collin #78 of Orlando City SC heads the ball during an International friendly soccer match between West Bromwich Albion and the Orlando City SC at the Orlando Citrus Bowl on July 15, 2015 in Orlando, Florida. Orlando won the match 3-1. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)
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HARRISON, N.J. (AP) The New York Red Bulls have acquired veteran center back Aurelien Collin from Orlando City SC in exchange for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft.

The Red Bulls announced the deal for the 30-year-old Collin on Friday.

[ MLS: Red Bulls 4-0 FC Dallas ]

Collin, who is from France, was acquired by Orlando City ahead of its inaugural MLS campaign last season. Before that, he spent four years with Sporting Kansas City, where he won the 2013 MLS Cup and was named the MVP of the game.

Collin was named MLS Best XI in 2012 and earned three consecutive MLS All-Star appearances from 2012-2014. He has played professionally in France, Greece, England, Scotland and Portugal.

USMNT’s Tim Howard starts for Everton

U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard smiles during practice Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015, in St. Louis. The U.S. men's team is scheduled to play a World Cup soccer qualifying match against St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Friday in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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Tim Howard is back in goal for Everton.

[ WATCH: Stream PL games via Live Extra

The U.S. national team legend, 37, returns for the Toffees and is named captain by under-fire manager Roberto Martinez.

Howard hasn’t played in a Premier League game for Everton since January 24 when the Toffees lost 2-1 against Swansea at Goodison.

Since then he has struggled with a calf injury and has been replaced by Spanish goalkeeper Joel Robles as Everton’s starting goalkeeper. In the past few months Everton’s manager Martinez has come under increasing pressure from the fans as they’ve continued to coast along in midtable and were beaten in the FA Cup semifinal by Manchester United last weekend.

[ MORE: How will USMNT line up this summer? ]

The New Jersey native has signed a deal with Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids — a contract which makes him the best-paid goalkeeper in MLS history — who he will join on July 1 as he return to the U.S. to finish out his career.

After spending 13 years in England with Manchester United and Everton, it seems like Howard will get a final chance to say farewell to Everton’s fans in the last three weeks of the season.

Despite criticism from sections of Everton’s supporters this season, Howard has been a fans favorite for most of his decade on Merseyside.

Below is the starting lineup for Everton as they face Bournemouth on Saturday at Goodison (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on Premier League Extratime and online via Live Extra).